Search Lobsterland

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


If you knew me a few years ago, I didn't own a bike. Then I did, and my friend Jennifer sold me on riding Bike MS. I figured signing up would light a candle under my massive ass to ride more often than I would left to my sedentary devices.

Good call. Jennifer also turned me on to group rides, which turned me on to bicycle adventures which turned me on to meeting my soulmate. Which turned me on to bicycle commuting and the next thing I knew I wasn't doing nearly as many group rides.

Back when I met these folks, it made total sense to me to drive ten miles with my bike on the car, ride in a 20-mile circle, then drive ten miles home with the bike on the car. As opposed to riding ten miles from home and then back, say. Or riding ten miles to work and then home in the evening.

Anyway, I still love these guys and I don't see them nearly enough if you don't count Facebook (and really, that shouldn't count). So I had ridden to work on a Monday morning, got out of work on time, and made my way over to the Trek store. I was actually early. Got to talk to my friend Joel, who works there. He was off to Friz on the Plaza, towing a mountain bike behind his scooter.

I think Joel worked at the Trek store when I started riding, so it's possible he remembers this fat, broke, divorced guy with a $50 used bike he bought out of a friend's basement. A guy who'd had a heart attack a few years before, at the ripe old age of 32, and who seemed determined to pull a Dick Cheney impersonation on the Monday night Recovery Ride.

As I told our sweeper, my friend Julia, I may be old and fat, but I know how to climb a hill slowly.

It was truly great to see my old friends, even if at least one was conspicuously absent. I started snapping pics with ny Nikon and Abby asked me, 'You going to lug that thing on the whole ride?'

I lug that thing everywhere. I think my camera bag might be grafted to my shoulder, I can't be sure. Anyway, what a great time. As I observed with another rider in the group, the best rides are generally averaging ten miles per hour with good friends.

Monday, April 29, 2013


So the Tomatosaurus Rex is fixing to be bigger, better and more Lobsterfied than ever before.

Last summer at the Greater Kansas City Tomato Tasting, I was complaining to an old friend (we went to high school together back when the plains were black with buffalo) that I couldn't get good compost delivered. Missouri Organic is close enough we can afford delivery, but their 'compost' is still composting, and the time I used it, it killed everything I planted in it. The next year we got their top soil 'mix,' and while it didn't murder my plants I wasn't really impressed with it. Suburban Lawn & Garden sells the real thing, finished out, cured composted yard waste that's rich and cool and black and smells good. It reminds me of a line from Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath about soil so rich you could make a broth out of it.

But Suburban is so far from where I live I either have to buy ten yards of compost (that's a lot, folks), or I pay $140 for delivery. My friend said, 'So all you're really needing is access to a dump truck to get the compost you want?'

In a nutshell, yeah. 'Consider it done,' he said. He said it so casually I wasn't sure whether to take him seriously. We've all known people who make promises easily but don't keep them much. And borrowing a dump truck, that's not a small favor.

But he came through, all I ended up having to pay was gas (and for the five yards of compost). Five is a lot of yards, but those yards go pretty fast and when you've got ultra-cheap access to a dump truck... The truck technically holds 16 yards, and the temptation is to fill it to the rim but if I wanted to buy a five year supply, I'd let Suburban deliver it for free, right?

Then came the hard part. Moving all this stuff into beds, putting down the SRM film over the tomato beds and driving in the tree stakes I brought home Thursday thanks to the generosity of another guy I went to high school with and his minivan. These are two guys who will not want for fresh tomatoes this summer if I can help it. And with the 36 plants I'm getting next week, I should be able to throw them a few.

I came in when it got dark, but not because it was dark. We have a pretty good light out back, but I couldn't lift the driving sleeve high enough. I got 12 of the 36 stakes in, but these are eight foot steel rods, and the driver I borrowed is good and heavy (very effective but hard to lift at about 35 lbs I'm guessing). I'll have to finish driving the tree stakes in later this week.

Then I had a hot bath and a sexy massage and went to sleep and didn't get up until the next day when I rode my bike 47 miles for kicks...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Spring Garden Jucy Lucy Freakout

On my list today was Kansas City Community Gardens, where I planned to get some spinach and other seeds, as well as some other transplantables to augment what I'm getting from James Worley. I didn't realize they were only open until noon, so I struck out there. I did learn that these tree-like plants in some of the beds were overwintered collards, that you can harvest just the low leaves and it'll keep going at least until it gets hot enough to make the plant bolt.

That would be good information to have if I planned on growing more collards. I grew some in last fall's garden, but the thing is, I don't really like collard greens. Or turnip greens, come to that, and I have a big row of those in the front vegetable garden.

From now on, I think I'll stick to Chard, which is also my wife's favorite green. That and spinach, and lettuces of course.

From there we went by Habitat Re-Store, where I hoped to score a sleeve driver for driving my tomato stakes in. They sell them with the t-posts at Home Depot, but they're almost thirty bucks and you can probably find used ones for less, right? Or borrow one, which is what I ended up doing after striking out on the used purchase. I'll get my own in the fullness of time, but I don't think I'll pay retail: it's one of those things that would survive more than one apocalypse, there's no value lost for it being 'used.' Eventually I'll get one for cheap or even free if I keep my eyes open. This is America, after all.

From there, we went by Worley's, where I was originally planning to pick up my 36 tomatoes, plus a dozen or so peppers, some basil and other herbs, a few cucumber plants, etc. But since management has locked out the sun this spring, his plants are all still pretty puny. Plus, it's supposed to get cold again this coming Thursday. So I let him continue to have custody of these babies, just getting some SRM film and fertilizer so I can ready the bedrooms in their future home. Hopefully it will warm up enough I can transplant next weekend, but if it gets as cold as is predicted, I might be wise to wait a few days for the soil to warm up.

While I was there, I was checking out James' enviable greens. He has huge beds of lettuce and spinach just about running riot. Plus hundreds of onions and a whole bed of garlic, two kinds. I didn't think my spring vegetable garden was doing nearly as well as his, the bed I saw him transplant to when I got my Agribond and seedlings from him back at the beginning of March.

But when I got home and pulled back the Agribond, to my surprise, what was holding up the row cover wasn't my wire frames and string (and candlestick and whatnot), it was the plants themselves. Wow.

I fired up the grill and made Jucy Lucys, cheeseburgers with the cheese on the inside and relatively rare (only medium if melting cheese counts as 'medium'). Corinna and Raymond (who skillfully repaired a broken post-hole digger that got broken building our dog fence) harvested some radishes and lettuce from the spring garden and we sat down to eat.

I'm like, wait: I don't normally even have anything planted by April 27. Here I am eating a salad from my garden and draping my Jucy Lucy with a heap of crunchy goodness from a bed that was covered with snow a few weeks ago.

I love my life!

Friday, April 26, 2013

High Stakes

So I put out a feeler on Facebook for someone to help me with this transportation dilemma.

I grow heirloom tomatoes, lots of them, and most of these guys are indeterminate, meaning they outgrow conventional tomato stakes and cages. The first year I grew them, my neighbors asked me what the hell I thought I was staking when I drove sharpened 2x2x8's into the ground from a ladder. A couple months later, they wanted to know what the hell I was feeding those tomatoes (nothing but a little fungicide spray, Tomato-Tone and and bone meal, really. I wasn't even watering them.*

So the wooden 2x2s don't live long. The pressure treated ones I bought in subsequent years do slightly better but get brittle and are subject to breakage. Plus, they seemed to tilt and lean a lot last year, and the garden had a disorderly look I dubbed the Drunken Weave (after Florida Weave, a technique for supporting tomato plants).

So this year, I thought maybe T-Posts. There's a system called Texas Tomato Cages that is very good, and James Worley recommends them all the time, and I'd love them. I would. If any of you Lobster Land visitors want to contribute, I'm planning 36 tomato plants this year—I'll need six packs of the base cages @ $169 per; I'll conservatively need six extension packs at $88, probably nine extension packs to be safe. So for $1500 to $2000, I'm set, never have to tie a plant according to the good guru.

Looking for used T-Posts (because if I can buy them new for six or seven bucks, I should be able to find used ones for half that) on Craigslist, I came across an interesting item. Tree stakes. They're anywhere from a half inch to an inch in diameter, eight feet long, solid steel, with poly sleeves to protect the plants you tie to them. A nursery that has scaled back is selling off inventory, some 12,000-15,000 of them for three bucks apiece.

In other words, I can have live-forever, tall, strong tomato stakes for about what I've paid for crappy wooden 2x2s. $108 instead of $1500.

I drove out to where they were, not a short trip really, and after almost getting my xB stuck in the mud, learned they wouldn't even fit in my car. When I put out the feeler on Facebook for someone with a pickup to help with this errand, the one person who stepped forward was a guy I went to high school with, a guy who I think I mainly argued with about religion back then, and I wasn't probably very graceful about it.

I rode my bike to his house after work, we put Minnie Pearl in the back of his Previa and we drove down to get the stakes and bring them to my house. He wouldn't even accept gas money,and he easily drove fifty miles on my behalf. I'll be delivering heirloom tomatoes to the West Plaza this summer, I guarantee you that. What a huge favor.

*On the subject of watering tomatoes: they're a deep-rooted plant, can go down pretty darn deep to get the water they need. I watered a little bit during last summer's drought, but met some commercial growers at the Greater KC Tomato Tasting who convinced me I'd been foolish to do so. Then again, the Big Tree needed watering last summer, so I can be forgiven for not following my usual rule of watering in when transplanting them and then generally leaving the watering to other crops that don't put down such deep roots.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Just Another Sunday Afternoon Ride

I managed to slip out for a little ride in the afternoon after church and lunch was done. I had that time slated for fetching a few cubic yards of compost from Suburan Lawn & Garden with my friend's hijacked F-450 dump bed, but he'd begged off until next week.

Which is when I originally planned to put out my tomatoes, including in a couple of these beds I need to fill with this as yet un-bought compost.

May 1 is the official season opener according to my guru and tomato plant source, James Worley. Last year, I could have totally jumped that gun and won the gamble, but it would have been a gamble. They've revised the growing zones to accomodate the climate change I still don't believe is really caused by carbon dioxide (I'm not saying it isn't happening, I'm saying there's some hinky shit going on with the cause-effect science). So I could probably get away with being three or four days ahead of that May 1 date, but according to James' blog and emails, the lack of sunshine isn't really doing these guys any favors as it is, so transplanting them early isn't likely to gain me any yield.

And this friend is offering to help me fetch this compost on the cheap. Suburban wants a huge delivery charge to come as far as me, so huge in fact that I'd almost buy the ten yards required for free delivery. That's two or three years worth of compost for me, probably more since we've about maxed out the yard and probably won't add a bunch of beds the next few years. But my $150 compost order would cost $140 in delivery charges, so a friend with a dump truck you can use for minimal compensation and gas, that's too good to pass up.

There's a closer place that sells compost, but I learned the hard way they aren't where to get it. We got their topsoil mix last year, and it was so-so, didn't kill everything we planted in it anyway, but I'm just not going to use their stuff anymore. Suburban's compost is almost like potting soil you get for $37 per yard.

So since we weren't hijacking a dump truck today, I went riding and found myself shooting a few tags and murals along the way. Of course.

My hat's off to the Motel/Morel tagger, by the way. I shoot a lot of tag art, including a lot of whole-car pieces, but when you think about the fact that these railroad cars hold a bevy of drive-on-the-road cars, painting something that goes floor to ceiling is an athletic event, probably involving repelling and/or sneaking ladders or a cherry-picker into a train yard.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Rep Theater Show

I was surprised by Em's Rep Theater show.

When I was in high school, the rep theater show in the spring was almost like a high school produced episode of Saturday Night Live, maybe some incidental music but it was mostly skits.

This was a patriotic-themed show that involved as much choral production and jazz band as anything else.

That's not to say it's a bad thing, it's just not what I featured in my head when Em was talking about it in advance.

A high point for me: Em singing solo, God Bless America. When I had her in piano lessons back in first grade, she was too freaked by stage fright to perform a recital in a living room filled mainly with her own family members. Even as she's embraced choir and theater in high school, she doesn't exactly have a big case of the Look At Me's. She didn't sound nervous, though, she sang solidly and expressively.

I also really liked the Nobody Loves the Ump, featuring an umpire with blackout shades and a cane.

I do wish I could find a trick or two to get better on-stage pics. It's not my D7000's fault, I'm sure, that faces wash out and have tragic shadows and all that. This is one area where my fancy-dancy DSLR doesn't really produce much better results, often, than what I used to get from a Canon Powershot. Either way, I get lots of terrible photos, a few mediocre ones and every once in a blue moon something I really like, just by fluke.

Monday, April 22, 2013


After dropping Em at the high school to get ready for her Rep Theater performance, I went to check and see what this UFO hovering on the horizon over U.S. 56 was.

The BNSF intermodal facility Gardner was in a titter about a couple years back. If I recall, some NIMBY types managed to guarantee that Gardner would never receive a dime of tax revenue from the development, on the theory that if Gardner wouldn't annex the area, BNSF wouldn't build it there. BNSF didn't care one way or the other whether the area was annexed and if so by who, and I think Edgerton had the good sense to embrace the inevitable and not cut themselves out of the picture.

Gardner will still benefit from it, probably already is benefitting it: on a Saturday afternoon I could see cement trucks coming and going and a lot of pickups parked off in the distance, so even though they're not even taking sea crates off a train yet, I'm sure it's making for some very good jobs.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

BRGRs & Birds

For my brother's birthday, we ate at BRGR, a 'modern burger joint' — I guess vowels in the name would have been passé.

Good food, I had a Jucy Lucy (yes, that's how they spell it), and it was deliciously juicy and on the rare side of medium rare, exactly as I ordered it. The truffle fries, well, maybe truffle oil is too subtle for all the other things going on with the burger and whatnot because except for a dusting of parsley I couldn't tell they weren't just fries. My Mom had the sweet potato fries, and they dust them with sugar which isn't maybe necessary but it is good.

Good beer list, too.

After, we came out to find Operation WildLife showing off some maimed birds of prey. Maimed because, if not for their injuries, they'd have been released back into the wild instead of being displayed like this.

There's a reason I carry my camera bag with me everywhere, and the reason is you never know when you'll emerge from a restaurant and get to shoot a one-eyed screech owl up close.

They also had a Merlin falcon, and three kinds of hawk on show.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


This perpetual winter thing is getting old. I overbought toe warmers back in January in preparation for our Joplin trip, especially since Corinna bought me a big pack right before that trip not realizing I'd already stocked up.

Those suckers are all used up, and in like two weeks we're supposed to be transplanting tomatoes. That's a tropical fruit, folks, and it was 40ºF when I left work on it's way to an overnight low below freezing and it's past tax day.

Fortunately, as far as bike commuting, I have my chilly weather gear figured out. Long johns below 30ºF, see also cycling jacket sleeves (the abdomen zips out and who needs it?). Cotton or merino sleeves below 50ºF, boots with toe warmers below 25ºF. Plus the rain suit for when it's better to be hot & wet than cold & wet (below maybe 55ºF).

I guess we didn't really have a winter last year, so maybe we're just making up for lost time.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tomatosaurus Rex 2013

We're getting closer to the goal of having an edible yard. I still need to finda Kingston Black sapling or two (depending on if I can find dwarf or semidwarf, I'm pretty sure the place I aim to plant it would support one semi but might do two full dwarf trees).

I managed to jam two more 4x8 beds behind the existing Tomatosaurus Rex beds to accomodate this year's tomatoes. I ordered 36 different heirloom varieties this year, so I'll need a full six beds just for that. Plus there's peppers and basil and whatnot. We still have the eight beds inside the dog fence, plus the beds that wrap around the deck, the beds to each side of the front porch and the two raised beds made of cool-looking oak log faces in the front.

Which I supplemented with two more. The oak looks better than pressure treated lumber, but it sure is challenging to work with. Plus, I bet it won't last nearly as long. I think if I had it to do over, I'd do the pressure treated and then just bolt the log faces on as a veneer.

Depending on how you count them, I think this puts us to about 24 garden beds. Most are raised beds, but the areas to each side of the front porch are only raised because they've been gardened for a few years and stirring in composed and what not has built up the soil a bit.

The front beds are going to take some strategery, as I'm aware that a certain element thinks growing vegetables in the front yard is bad form. All around the country, there have been people who got harassed and fined for it, and when they've dug in and gone to court it seems like they usually prevail, but better to not be in that situation. As far as I can tell from the Unified Govt's web site, there's no code saying you can't do it, but that doesn't mean someone couldn't find an angle. I made a mistake last fall when I sewed in straight rows on some turnip greens and whatnot. I think my plan for this year is to do things like peppers and basil that dont look all the same, grow to the same height, etc., and plant them in ways that break up that 'row' sense.

It's actually kind of funny that growing vegetables in the front yard could be seen as an eyesore. Back in World War II, about 40% of the nations salad bowl came from victory gardens according to this piece in the New York Times. Imagine the implications, if we got back to that, for the water rights struggle centered around growing it all in a single California valley.